Monday 28 October 2019

Whooping Crane Safari to Saskatchewan - 13-20 Oct 2019

My brother Andrew and I went to Saskatchewan in search of Whooping Cranes.  The Saskatoon area is well known stop over area in October. We gave ourselves a full week to find and enjoy the cranes with extra time to enjoy the other birds migrating through the prairies in October.  An area 75 minutes drive north of Saskatoon, near Marcelin, was the place to go in 2019 A good number (50!) of Whooping Crane had been reported here a few days before our arrival.

It was a royal success. On the first day we counted 110 and second day 112 Whooping Cranes. We had up to 64 in sight at one time. The huge birds with perhaps the loudest call of any bird in North America was the most wary species I had ever encountered.  Even at 500 m a car stopping on a little traveled road was enough to spook them. They were spectacular in flight. Huge birds. Photos were mainly of birds in flight. They would not fly over a human being either so even flight shots were all distant.

The spectacularly conspicuous Whooping Cranes needs a lot of space to feel comfortable. It can find these requirements in parts of sparsely populated Saskatchewan. 

Note the rusty bird in between the two white birds.  the rusty bird is a juvenile. We saw only about ten juvs.

Whooping Cranes feeding in comfort a long way from people and in a wide open terrain so it can spot potential predators (coyote) from a safe distance. 


Cousin to the Whooping Crane is the relatively abundant Sandhill Crane.

Sharp-tailed Grouse were fairly easy to see in the same areas as the Whooping Cranes within 30 minutes of sunrise. We saw a group of six doing a mock up of their spring dances in the corner of a remote wheat field.

An adult Golden Eagle looking for injured Snow Geese at Luck Lake caused a big stir. It was one of six Golden Eagles observed during the trip.

 This immature buteo (above and below) was a form of the Red-tailed Hawk, either a dark morph Western Red-tailed Hawk or a Harlan's.  

This stunning adult Harlan's Hawk ( just a race of the Red-tailed Hawk!) was one of the highlights of the trip.

This fat dog with the black tail was one of hundreds of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs preparing for hibernation at Grassland National Park.

Buffalo were reintroduced to Grasslands in 1996 and certainly fit the part now.

Best bird in the Grasslands Nat Park was this close fly over encounter of a gorgeous, pale morph adult Ferruginous Hawk.

See Part II below for the Geese of Saskatchewan.

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